New Russian Chronicles
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The conquest of the Pecheneg

This is a small overview of our kingdom, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, wisely and justly ruled by Ioannes Dukas, King of Bulgaria, Prince of Tarnovo, titles titles and count of Serdica.

All hail Ioannes Dukas, King of Bulgaria!

The Kingdom of Bulgaria includes the small royal demesne, the county of Serdica, and all of our vassals. To the northeast, the coveted lands of Galaz, Constantia and Birland. But those lands, as rightly as they belong to Bulgaria, are beyond our reach. Not even the rebellion plaging Birdland would justify our intervention. The Duke of Nytra is still the Papal controller, and even if he were not, he’s one of the Prince-Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. We cannot act, for the Germanic empire would crush as as surely as the night is dark.

To the south, the Byzantine empire, controlling most of the Anatolian peninsula and all of Greece. They are not only a very powerful neighbor. They were our former liege, from which we declared independence when Demetrios was crowned, after the death of his father. We enjoy a very good relationship with them, but Demetrios hasn’t forgotten that he has a claim to the titles of Count of Serdica and Prince of Tarnovo. Right now all of his forces are engaged in a bitter conflict with the Seljuk Turks, and the Count of Constantinople backstabbed the empire and tried to seize some lands. That might be good for us right now, but at some point the war between Byzancion and the Seljuk Turks will come to and end, and the count of Constantinople will have hell to pay. But what if the Empire turned its eyes on the Kingdom of Bulgaria at some point?

That’s why Ioannes decided to propose an alliance to the Byzantine Empire. It is relevant to mention that the king’s explanation for that alliance became part of the Bulgarian literary heritage thanks to the royal chronicle writer, who transcribed his words as “What shame is there in acknowledging the might and wisdom of the wise Demetrios, and forging an alliance unequal in strength, but equal in faith?”. That said, the kings actual words were “We might as well suck up to them, it’s our asses on the line here”, a commentary which became very popular in court.

Demetrios’ verbatim answer has been lost to history, but the thrust of it was “Nyet“.
And with that, an unsecured border that would cause many a sleepless night for the king.

But look to the north.

The Pecheneg. Pagan tribes, excellent horseriders that came to this land fleeing, or so they tell, an invasion of their ancestral homelands. They were invaded by a force they speak of in hushed and fearful terms. A vaste army of horseriders much better than them, ruthless and completely unstoppable. Something they call “the Golden horde”.

But that, sire, is just some pagan legend that they hold on to.

One thing remains true, however. Although they are good warriors, their domains are a shadow of their former selves. Things as they are, any of the surrounding kingdoms could conquer them and add their lands to theirs. That would be unacceptable. Obviously, the best thing to do is to conquer them right away.

The king was quick to issue a grand call to arms. The response, however, was very lukewarm, as only two vassals sent their regiments to fight with the king. The king’s marshall had prepared the regiments and put them in position before the declaration of war, and so the very first battle was fought in the Pecheneg heartland.

A phyrric victory was won. Despite what the figures could suggest it was a pitched battle. Right when the battle seemed to favour the Bulgarians, the pecheneg organized a desperate ambush, trapping the royal regiment in a ravine and slaying them to a man. Only the king and his closest advisors and guards escaped, and the battle was won because the count of Nikopolis made a show of bravery and charged against the weakened Pechenegs.

The battle was won, but only a ragged Nikopolis regiment remained to siege the Pecheneg’s fortress. The Royal regiment was no more, and the king was forced to strongarm the reluctant count of Tarnovo for support. He ended up providing his troops, but not without resenting the king’s forcefulness.

The war, however. The long absence of the king’s chancellor, called to lead a troop alongside the king, had already strained the secret relationship between the chancellor and the queen.

And when the king took on three pechenegs on his own to save the life of the chancellor, who had been knocked off his horse, he felt a profound surge of loyalty towards his liege. After the battle and a good night of sleep he confessed his adultery to his liege, swore that none of the children the queen had bore were his, and put his life in the hands of the Ioannes. The king, deeply moved by the courage of his brother at arms, spared his life and promised himself to give the queen the attentions she was obviously lacking.

By October, the land of the Pecheneg was conquered, and the High Chief was prisoner to the Bulgarians. And it was then that Ioannes surprised the world again with an act of mercy, for instead of making the Pecheneg lands his, he spared the life and titles of his opponent. Kügel of Oleshye will still rule over the Pecheneg lands and keep the chief of Tyrgoviste as his vassal, but he would become a vassal to Ioannes and convert to (orthodox) Christianity.

And so, the war was over. Bulgaria could now rest, reconstruct and lick its wounds. But Bulgaria is still a small kingdom surrounded by powerful neighbors. And this map shows them:

To the south (in violet), the Byzantine empire, which has already reconquered all the lost lands to the turks.
To the north (in yellow) the long tendrils of the German empire. More to the north, the kingdoms of Poland and Bohemia.
To the east (in slightly clearer blue) the kingdom of Croatia.

Bulgaria enters a time of peace and flourishing.

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